Anti-Politics in Britain: Dimensions, Causes and Responses - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Anti-Politics in Britain: Dimensions, Causes and Responses

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  1. Anti-Politics in Britain: Dimensions, Causes and Responses Gerry Stoker

  2. Some findings about British politics • 32% claim “to never follow” accounts of political and governmental affairs • 2 in 10 can name no party leader or any government ministry • 3 in 10 “never” talk about politics with friends and acquaintances • 53% claimed no membership of the most common types of social and political organisations • 8 in 10 are doubtful of the promises made by candidates in elections • Only 2% claim politics as a preferred leisure activity

  3. Where are the findings from? • Almond and Verba’s The Civic Culture a comparative study but with the field work conducted in 1959, the first nationwide academic study of political attitudes in GB • Yet A&V on the back these findings presented GB as having the culture to support, more than any other nation, ‘a stable democratic process’

  4. So has anything changed? • Our understanding of the issue? • A&V confirmed a consensus view among British commentators that the system was blessed with pragmatism, tolerance… • Challenges to A&V’s understanding of democracy with its celebration of political apathy and disinterest • We aim to repeat Civic Culture survey investigate to compare GB in 1959 with GB in 2009 to throw some light on the nature of anti-politics in GB • But ahead of that I aim here to draw some comparisons based on our existing knowledge

  5. Citizens: 1959 compared to 2009 • The relationship of British citizens to their political system has, arguably in important respects, got worse in a way that would disappoint A&V and theorists with less of an elitist approach to democracy • Anti-politics is strong in GB and presents a significant challenge along several dimensions • Look at shifts in political attitudes • Changes in political behaviour • Impact of changes in political institutions

  6. Attitude shifts: less confident about influence • A&V found in 1959 high levels of civic competence: 78% could do something about an unjust local regulation and 62% making the same claim about an unjust national regulation • In 2007, only two-fifths (38%) of respondents to the Citizenship Survey felt they could influence decisions in their local area and one-fifth (20%) of people felt they could influence decisions affecting Great Britain

  7. More alienated from the system • In 1959 nearly half the British sample spontaneously mentioned the system of government and political institutions as a matter of pride • In the 2008 Citizens Audit asked “Which of these statements best describes your opinion on the present system of governing Britain? • 2 % Works extremely well and could not be improved • 30% Could be improved in small ways but mainly works well • 62% Could be improved quite a lot or great deal 38 • Don’t know 6

  8. Speculation: not trust but loss of faith in the system • Not an issue of trusting politicians or standards • A new measure in the “Survey of public attitudes towards conduct in public life 2008” allows respondents to say how much they trust office holders to tell the truth, rather than simply whether or not they trust them to do so. • 44 per cent saying that they would trust government ministers a lot or a fair amount to tell the truth. • The corresponding figure for MPs is 45 per cent and local councillors is 57 per cent. And your local MP 63 per cent • Not as good as doctors 95 and 91 per cent

  9. Changing political behaviours • Less likely to vote: pattern of decline post war from more than 80% in 1950s to round 60% in 21st century • Consistent and fall: loss of voting habit • Less likely to be a member of political party or hold partisan commitment • Just as likely or not to be a member of an organization but …. • A&V describe activism as engaging with like-minded individuals in a group. Pattie in 2004 refer to the growth of individualistic engagement

  10. Changes in attitude and behaviour are reflected in new social divisions • Less gender differentials, greater social class differentials • Age remains ( we think) a major predictor of (dis)engagement in formal politics • Ethnic minorities and political engagement : a complex picture

  11. Propensity to vote (2008 audit) • Male 53% Female 52% • 18-24 23% • AB Social Class 66% • DE Social Class 34%

  12. Changes in institutional context • Political institutions more regulated less politically autonomous • Rising EU • Declining local government • Changing media practice • Rise of nationalism and devolved government

  13. Dimensions • Complex pattern of change: voting decline serious and sustained • Significant social divisions • Never been that trusting of politicians but now less confident of the system and much less confident of influence • Better educated population: less naïve but more demanding • Formal landscape of politics thin and undernourished • A strong anti-politics climate

  14. Causes of anti-politics • The collapse of formal politics has left a massive gap in which anti-politics has grown • We have become more alienated and more divorced from politics and at the same time more demanding of politics • The political class have helped to create this situation by their lack of belief in politics and collective action

  15. Citizens left on the sidelines by the professionalization of politics • Politics in all its forms has become professionalized and specialized • The rise of party ‘cartels’ • The emergence of ‘check-book’ interest groups • The professionalization of ‘event’ and protest politics

  16. Politics as collective process is squeezed by a more intensely individualized culture • Politics is centralized form of decision-making and quite careless of your interests and concerns as an individual • Politics requires sustained dialogue, it is prone to failure • Politics involves muddling through on both policy making and implementation • Doing politics is bound to create some frustration

  17. Politicians practising the art of anti-politics • All the main parties have embraced significant elements of an anti-politics position. They attack each other over sleaze, funding, trust and make constant claims about the mendacity of their opponents. • Labour in government is full of the virtues of taking decisions out of politics. • The Tories-the natural party of government in the twentieth century- presents itself as an anti-politics party, offering a populist embrace of society, community and individuals ahead of politics and the state. • The Liberals have manoeuvred themselves into the position of the party of permanent opposition.

  18. Not a solution • We all want a lot more participation • The Power Inquiry position and the half-soaked response of the Government • Bringing A&V back in: a question of balance

  19. Solutions: A politics for amateurs • Re-engage citizens ( and educate them) by providing opportunities for active involvement in political choices • Restructure formal and especially representative politics • Make politics more political • Take social divisions in political engagement very seriously

  20. Solutions: representative politics • Why representation matters (because people have only so much time) • Socially representative; ethically sustained; and competitive • Making representation a dialogue: a verb not a noun • Developing local capacity and global institutions

  21. Bringing politics back in • Bonfire of quangos • The potential of IT • Giving citizens real choices